Three years ago, Myles Martin became just the 15th true freshman to ever win an NCAA title.
It was improbable given that history, and perhaps even more unlikely given that he started the tournament as the No. 11 seed. He blew up the bracket, and defeated fellow freshman Bo Nickal of Penn State in the 174-pound finals, kicking off a three-year rivalry.
Three years later and Martin is now seeking to bookend his career with national championships. He is one of eight competitors to carry an NCAA crown into the 2019 event, and one of only eight to enter this year's field with a perfect record on the season.
In his freshman campaign he finished 33-6, setting a Buckeye record for wins by a true freshman, became the first Buckeye to win a title as a true freshman, and was the first No. 11 seed to win a NCAA title since 1979.
This year's story is much different. Martin is no longer a promising young contender busting brackets: he started the season as the No. 1 contender at 184 pounds, and he marched into Pittsburgh to cap an incredible career with a second NCAA Championship.
For the New Jersey native and three-time Maryland high school champ, however, the next three days are just another business trip.
"I'm just going to continue to wrestle and just kind of keep it simple and just compete as hard as I can," Martin told reporters gather at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday afternoon. "Nothing really changes. Just treat it like any other match or tournament."
Regardless of how his tournament concludes in Pittsburgh, it is hard to understate what Myles Martin has meant to the Ohio State University wrestling program, and what he means to his teammates. Buckeye head coach Tom Ryan describes his senior star in almost glowing terms: classy, smooth, kind.
Fans of the sport got to see Martin's calm, professional manner - grace, if you will - when he won his first Big Ten Championship under frustrating circumstances. Instead of facing Penn State's Shakur Rasheed in the conference finals earlier this month, Martin learned matside that Rasheed had opted not to wrestle the match, medically forfeiting the match in a move critics felt had nothing to do with injury and everything to do with protecting his seed in Pittsburgh.
"It's not the same feeling as actually wrestling and winning," Martin told Big Ten Network reporter Shane Sparks after the match. "It kind of feels like I just got handed the Big Ten title. I only wrestled two matches in this tournament so it's a little weird."
"It kind of feels like I just got handed the Big Ten title ... It's a little weird, but I'll take it."— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) March 10, 2019
- @wrestlingbucks' Myles Martin, on winning @B1GWrestling championship due to forfeit pic.twitter.com/t6QixPjOsG
Martin won his first Big Ten Championship having wrestled just two matches, but he has performed well on the sport's biggest stage. After upsetting Nickal in that all-freshman NCAA final, he would finish fifth the next season at 184 pounds and then fall to Nickal in the 184-pound finals in 2018, becoming a three-time All America placer in the process.
His career record of 116-18 puts him at No. 11 on Ohio State's all-time leaderboard by winning percentage (.866). If he wins out in Pittsburgh, he'll move into a tie with OSU Athletic Hall of Famer Mike Pucillo for 10th.
With a win in his first match Thursday, he'll join Ohio State's Top-15 in career victories, equaling Reece Humphrey's 117 wins from 2006-2010. If he wins out, he would tie Ken Ramsey (1987-1992) and Lance Palmer (2007-2010) for No. 9 all time at 121 wins.
Going through a state of depression knowing this is the last month of Myles College wrestling career!! Back when it all began at 6 years old!! pic.twitter.com/33rMb5Ocy5— Gregory Martin (@TheMackMan2) March 3, 2019
For the man who saw his first NCAA Championship in Philadelphia in 2011, a journey more than a decade in the making is about to come to a close. For his family, teammates and fans, the next three days present one last chance to see one of the best put it on the line one last time.